Have you ever wondered what wildflower fudge might taste like? How about a bunny burger? Venison tongue? Larvae ice cream? If you like to taste your adventures, you live to eat, and you have an iron-clad stomach, then get thee to Hokitika, New Zealand for the annual Wildfoods Festival.
Hokitika is a tiny, beautiful town in the middle of the wild, cold, wet, and did I say wild? West Coast of the southern island of New Zealand. Billed as the “Greenstone (New Zealand Jade) Capital of the World,” the oceanside town is not much more than a few cute espresso shops and a beach reputed to wash up jade along the shore. But every spring over 15,000 travelers, tourists, locals, and freaks descend upon the village to put their mouth where their money is and eat all manner of cuisine from the forests, farmland, and ocean waters of New Zealand.
The crazy festival (any festival in on the South Island is going to be straight crazy) is not only a celebration of the bounty of the land, but also a festival of libation and a shout-out to the pioneering spirit of the land. Had the early gold-rushers and Maori before them not eaten huhu grubs and paua (abalone) fritters, the West Coast may not ever have been settled and Hokitika might not exist.
The Wildfoods Festival takes place this year on Saturday March 8; besides all manner of food flora and fauna there will also be plenty of music, activities for children, cooking demonstrations and live performances. The real attraction, though, is the menu. How many would YOU try?
• lamb’s tails
• whitebait fritters (whitebait are very small fish, sold in pint jars)
• horse, bunny, and dolphin burgers
• elderflower champagne
• grilled mutton bird (a New Zealand sea bird)
• worm truffles
• deep fried crickets, wasps, beetles, and grasshoppers
• eels on lettuce with cream cheese
• mussel kebabs
• fish eyes
• Viagra slushy (a wild food? perhaps)
• duck giblets
• crocodile and kangaroo
• huhu grubs (New Zealand grubworms)
• deep fried shark
• rose petal wine
• mountain oysters (sheep’s testicles)
How many would you try? Here from behind my lovely laptop screen I say I will try them all- but find me in Hokitika and see how gustatorially brave I am then!
Hokitika is a great stop along the west coast any time of the year- in fact, I would definitely recommend staying in Hokitika over Greymouth, Westport, or at Punakaiki (the Pancake Rocks). It is a much more interesting town with better restaurants and the best shopping for Greenstone along the west coast. Enjoy the beach and keep an eye out for New Zealand jade!